N. Korea on a 'charm offensive' as U.S. talks on nuclear issues begin
North Korean For. Min. Kim Kye-Gwan departs U.S. Mission to the U.N. Photo by: AFP/Getty Images
July 28th, 2011
06:04 PM ET

N. Korea on a 'charm offensive' as U.S. talks on nuclear issues begin

North Korea and the United States began two days of what the U.S. terms "exploratory" talks at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York on Thursday.

This is the first direct meeting on nuclear issues between the two nations since so-called six-party talks broke down in 2008, when North Korea pulled out of the multinational nuclear disarmament initiative. Six nations take part in those talks: North Korea, South Korea, the U.S., Russia, China and Japan.

The State Department described the first day's talks as "serious and businesslike," adding in the brief written read-out, "We look forward to continuing our meetings tomorrow."

Washington invited the North Koreans to New York after the chief nuclear envoys of North and South Korea met last week at an Asian security conference in Bali, Indonesia, and agreed to try to resume the six-party talks as soon as possible.

The North Korean delegation arrived at the mission Thursday morning. About 10 members emerged from a bus and made no comments to reporters gathered in the street.

The team is headed by North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kae-gwan, an experienced diplomat who is considered an architect and a main strategist of North Korea's nuclear policy.

As Ambassador Stephen Bosworth arrived for the talks, he also made no public comments. The State Department said Bosworth, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, is heading up a team made up of negotiators from several U.S. government agencies.

In a brief written read-out the of Thursday’s session, the State Department described the first-day’s talks as “serious and business-like,” adding “We look forward to continuing our meetings tomorrow.”

The U.S. State Department is downplaying the New York discussions, even though observers say there is now "momentum" following a tense period of provocations last year in which North Korea sank a South Korean warship and launched a deadly artillery attack on a South Korean island.

On Thursday, the State Department's Mark Toner said the Bali meeting was a "step in the direction" of North-South dialogue. The New York discussions, he told reporters, is "a chance to sound out the North Koreans."

"These are experienced diplomats that are going into these talks," Toner said. "They've been down this road before, and it's a chance for us to gauge their (North Korea's) seriousness."

Toner repeated what has now become the U.S. mantra: "Words are not enough; we need action." But he refused to define what actions the North could take to prove it is sincere about returning to nuclear talks.

"We're looking for a concrete indication that they are going to move forward. ... I think it's premature to say what those steps are going to look like. ... They need to show that they're willing to comply with their commitments under the 2005 Joint Statement," he said.

John Park, a Korea expert and senior program officer on Northeast Asia at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, tells CNN that the U.S. and South Korea are "managing expectations," but "if there were to be something positive and if there is forward movement, I think we will see other types of exploratory meetings that would lead to a serious consideration of a formal resumption of six-party talks."

Park says the North appears to be carrying out what he said many experts call a "larger charm offensive."

"North Korea is experiencing food problems. Also, they have 2012 development goals they are trying to achieve, and so right now, they are in a stage where they need international cooperation and international assistance."

Another factor Park points to: "Ties between China and North Korea at the highest levels of their respective parties are leading to some traction that some of this Chinese influence is finally paying off, and this is leading right now to a resumption of these efforts, but certainly it has been a very rocky road."

There's a contradiction, however, Park says: "There is eagerness among the six to return to the six-party talks, but the vast majority of the members in those talks are doubtful that North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons anytime soon."

At the New York talks, North Korea is expected to renew calls for food aid from the United States. South Korea shut the door to food aid in 2008, although this week, it allowed a shipment of flour. The United States says it continues to study the North's request for aid.

"We expect to see the North Koreans making some points regarding the food situation," Park said, "as well as the overall economic situation and the need for assistance. But everyone will be watching very, very closely as to how the North Koreans try to convince the countries involved that they are serious about denuclearization and that when they go back to the six-party talks, it will be about a resumption of irreversible denuclearization."

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. CosmicOps

    Better go back to the drawing board CNN. In fact, most of the seven responses seen so far should at least give you a hint as to what is terribly wrong about your Editorial Managing Concept or whatever you call it. Do you really expect most Occidental citizens to actually believe the Presidential declarations ??? Nuclear is at stake here I kindly remind you. What we see in reality is an administration crawling to North Korea's feet in order to not stir it up with China !!! You see you Editorial news when it suits the administartion's needs and not WHEN it should actually be made. Get the point ??

    August 1, 2011 at 2:44 am | Reply
  2. Sgtgismo

    It would be great and positively newsworthy if North Korea and Israel with separate agendas and dilemmas were highly productive for all in discussions for the future. So many times we have met with each one in an exercise futility of the past.

    July 29, 2011 at 10:00 am | Reply
  3. Chairman Meow

    Will someone please lob a nuke at No. Korea?

    What will they do if a nuke landed right in the middle of 'dear leaders' dining room table eh? They'd goose-step their way out of tyrany & into freedom.

    You need to rid the world of these little crazy dictators once & for all.

    Or forever the world will be terrorized by them.

    We're going to have a world war, its unavoidable. Let US start this one. The bullies never learn the lesson until they get whooped really good. It's time to whoop 'dear leader' & free his people. Let them rejoin So. Korea & be free.

    Besides, if we're going to attack nations let US attack a real threat to humanity instead of harmless places like Iraq used to be.

    July 29, 2011 at 4:48 am | Reply
    • Mike

      Tell that to China, they do not want a democratic, US-friendly country next door. That's the reason the Chinese flooded the Korean peninsula with 950,000 troops during the Korean War, and the same reason why they continue to support their good dear friend KimJong IL. The old generals remember the korean war, most of them are on first name basis with Korean higher-ups in the government and military. Real good ol' Pals.

      Fact: During the Korean war, for every North Korean soldier, there where 4 Chinese soldiers.

      July 29, 2011 at 9:57 am | Reply
      • JR

        That and China does not want 4 million desitute N Korean refugee's over running they're borders for food.....and beer.

        July 29, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
      • Abu

        It is time for USA to shut down the Korean and Japanese bases and go home. Same some taxpayers' money. The USA is the source of conflicts. With USA gone, China will not need to support N. Korea anymore as a buffer, and N.Korean government will collapse.

        July 29, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
      • Chinese imposters

        Abu? Is that you General Chen. LMAO!

        July 29, 2011 at 10:37 pm |

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